By RIA ROEBUCK JOSEPH
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – San Francisco’s blueprint for building 82,069 housing units over the next eight years received state certification, confirming the Housing Element Plan created by the city, complied with state law.
More than half the planned units are designated as affordable to low- and moderate-income units in a scheme that triples the annual build of the previous ten years.
In 2019, Executive Order N-06-19 was issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom to identify urbanized state-owned property that could be used for housing development. The Department of General Services (DGS) was tasked with creating a database of such properties.
Working together with the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), a program to develop state housing began in Sep. 2019, prompting the legislature to pass Assembly Bill 1255.
City councils determined which parcels of land, meeting the requirements of AB1255, would be included in their housing elements and were suitable for residential development. Failure to identify land areas for affordable housing developments resulted in state penalties.
“San Francisco is moving forward aggressively with not only getting our Housing Element approved, but doing the critical work to reform our laws and processes to get rid of barriers to housing and deliver the homes our city badly needs. This is essential for our economy to recover, for working people to be able to afford to live near their jobs, for families to grow and thrive, and for government to tackle critical issues like homelessness and climate change, ” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
Gov. Newsom said, “Through stringent state mandates with real consequences for failing to meet their obligation, San Francisco is showing what is possible when you stop kicking the can down the road and start to face the difficult decisions it takes to tackle the housing needs of Californians.”
San Francisco’s Planning Department staff meet with HCD teams to ensure compliance in their housing element plans.
A statement released by the governor’s office revealed “The plan includes midterm assessments and if the City does not permit 29,000 homes within four years, they pledge to immediately rezone additional sites. Additionally, if the City’s housing production for lower-income residents falls behind, San Francisco will specifically rezone additional sites that are adequate to meet the housing needs for lower-income households and other supportive programs. These strategies are part of a larger constraint reduction package intended to increase certainty and accelerate housing production.”
The Newsom administration, through its agencies, will continue to analyze “the patterns that created years of costly building delays in San Francisco.”
Gov. Newsom congratulated San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed and city leaders for their collaboration. “I hope this model of cooperation continues going forward, and that other cities take advantage of the resources and technical assistance made available by HCD towards housing element compliance. As the City works to untangle an antiquated and stubborn system that impedes production of housing for every income level, HCD will continue to monitor closely, investigate, and provide any technical assistance that can help them meet the 82,069-unit goal over the next eight years,” the governor said.
The San Francisco Housing Element, having been certified, will have to remain compliant by meeting implementation milestones and program commitments and will be monitored by the Department of Housing and Community Development.
“These efforts will take strong partnerships between our local and state governments, and we are ready to continue working with the Governor, the Legislature, and the State Department of Housing and Community Development to make a real difference on housing in San Francisco, the Bay Area and California,” Mayor Breed stated.
According to Matt Lewis, Director of Communications at California Yimby, an organization dedicated to making California an affordable place to live, work and raise a family, the San Francisco housing plan can produce results if there are regulation reforms and the governor holds them accountable to see it to completion.
“A hundred percent of the new homes in San Francisco will be affordable to somebody, and that’s actually a really important clarification,” Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Lewis believes that San Francisco first needs to address the rules that make it prohibitive to build affordable housing for the city’s plan to succeed.
“San Francisco has a lot of very high income earners and what has happened in cities like San Francisco is the same thing that has happened in cities around the country and around the state, because the city has been so slow to develop housing at all, in fact a state audit found that San Francisco has the worst housing approval process in the state of California, it is the slowest most expensive process…it takes almost three years to get a single house approved…the idea is you need to be building a lot of housing across the income spectrum not just the limit of the income spectrum in order to maintain affordable housing stock.”
San Francisco’s Housing element went through several drafts and reviews by HCD before certification. The housing plan for 2022-2030 is “the first one that will center on racial and social equity. It will include policies and programs that express our collective vision and values for the future of housing in San Francisco,” the planning site stated.
“I do hope the governor sticks to his word and really holds San Francisco’s feet to the fire while building this housing. I think that’s really important… I think it (housing) is necessary. I think there is a chance that they’ll actually pull off building all these homes. I think it is possible, yes. Realistic? I think they’re going to have to really go at all the stops. I think they’ll have to work really hard and really focus on getting out of their own way,” Mr. Lewis concluded.